The Best New Hotels in Africa and the Middle East | 2023 Hot List

Nothing makes us more excited to get up and go than putting together our annual Hot List of the best new hotels, cruises, restaurants, cultural destinations, and transportation projects. Now in its 27th year, this curated collection is a labor of love for our global team, which spends the year researching, visiting, and vetting the entries to bring you a definitive directory of places whose style, ethos, and service set new standards for hospitality. This year’s best new hotels in Africa and the Middle East range from the sprawling mega-resorts of the UAE to the forested safari camps of Botswana. All that’s left is for you to decide where you’re going first.

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Fairmont Tazi Palace Tangier — Morocco

Fairmont Tazi Palace Tangier — Morocco

Integrating opulence in just the right measure is a difficult task, but this five-star hotel (once home to the king’s advisor) pulls it off perfectly. After you enter the building with its cream-colored walls, you’ll find yourself in the lobby, a luminous space with nearly 40-foot ceilings. It’s the first hint that this hotel does everything in style: from the eight acres of landscaped grounds to the dramatic lamps that illuminate the corridor leading to the Crudo restaurant and the photogenic swimming pool, where you’ll lose track of time under the Mediterranean sun. The hotel’s 133 rooms are an amalgam of elements that celebrate the country’s craft traditions with fretwork wooden screens, mosaics, and bespoke fabrics created by local artisans. The Fairmont Tazi Palace’s massive wellness center includes 10 treatment rooms, a private spa, a solarium, a hammam you won’t want to leave, and sunny Andalusian-style gardens that lead to a secluded vitality pool. Let yourself unwind before refueling at one of the four restaurants, where ingredients are pulled from the hotel’s own orchard and kitchen garden. Rooms from $370. —Lidia González

Atlantis the Royal — Dubai | The Best Hotels

Any retreat that bills itself as “the most ultra-­luxury experiential resort in the world” is not going for subtlety—but here, that’s very much the point. Sitting alongside its famous sister, Atlantis the Palm, on Dubai’s iconic Palm Jumeirah, Atlantis the Royal’s eye-catching curves contain 795 rooms, suites, and penthouses, 17 restaurants and bars, a 1.2-mile beach, and 90 pools. Beyoncé performed a private concert during Grand Reveal weekend, and the music video for “10:35” by Tiësto featuring Tate McCrae was filmed on-site. Guests enter the lobby between walls of fire and water, conceived by WET Design. The spaces are vast, with light bouncing off enormous swathes of marble and massive fish tanks; stately internal boulevards lined with luxury boutiques crisscross the property. Up in the rooms, the mood is calmer, with soothing palettes and surprisingly minimalist decor accentuating views, from the Palm-facing balconies especially. The suites and penthouses elevate the experience even further with landscaped terraces and glass-walled pools. Rooms from $750. —Nicola Chilton

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The Best Hotels in Africa | The Best Hotels in Africa

Caravan by Habitas Agafay — Morocco

The rocky sparseness of Morocco’s Agafay desert has long attracted travelers wanting a break from the sensory explosions of Marrakech. It’s an ideal landing spot for the Habitas group, which since 2016 has been setting up their minimalist, sustainable eco-retreats in places like Mexico, Namibia, and Saudi Arabia. Their oasis among the lunar dunes eschews bells and whistles in favor of communal vibes and engagement with nature—or “luxury for the soul,” as founders Oliver Ripley, Kfir Levy, and Eduardo Castillo call it. They have now applied their ethos to Agafay’s 41 Berber-inspired tents and lodges. Each en suite tent—solar-powered, with eco-bathrooms—embodies stylish pared-downness: no minibars or TVs, just wooden floors and earthy cream and ochre tones reminiscent of the regional rock. Like all Habitas retreats, Agafay uses light-impact building materials as much as possible, either upcycled or sourced locally, which are designed to blend into the landscape. Weekenders escaping European cities sink into poufs and Berber rugs inside the communal glass-wrapped lounge. On the semi-open dining veranda, beneath raffia lamps, they tuck into lamb slow-cooked in the underground oven before knocking back market sangrias by the open-air bar, silhouetted against the Atlas Mountains and flame-red sunsets that give way to heavenly constellations. This is what travel is about—less guilt and more meaning amid tranquility, good conversation, and cleansing nature. Rooms from $350. —Noo Saro-Wiwa

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Future Found Sanctuary — South Africa | The Best Hotels in Africa

Future Found Sanctuary — South Africa

This isn’t a hotel; it’s a passion project. Jim Brett—who spent his career working for brands such as Anthropologie, West Elm, and latterly J.Crew—came to South Africa in 2004 and vowed one day he’d live here. In 2014, he and his partner bought an old family house on the side of Table Mountain and opened the seven-acre Future Found Sanctuary (managed by Time + Tide) to the public. Even if you’ve booked only a room, there’s enough space for everyone to do pretty much what they want. If you want to lie about by the pool all day and have a salad lunch in your swimsuit, you can. Or, because it’s situated in a centrally located valley from which the vertiginous Chapman’s Peak Drive winds, you can drive to Cape Point, taste wine in the vineyards in nearby Constantia, pack a picnic to take to the nearby boulder-lined beach of Llandudno, or drive 20 minutes into the city. There truly is nowhere else in Cape Town like it: a secure, contemporary villa with a small spa overseen by a professional wellness expert, staffed by warm locals, and surrounded by a huge garden and backed by the mountain. Brett has employed local experts to create the garden, design, and menus—and it shows. Rooms from $352. —Lisa Grainger

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Lolebezi — Zambia | The Best Hotels in Africa

Lolebezi — Zambia | The Best Hotels in Africa

Built on a five-hectare concession through which a narrow inlet known locally as the Discovery Channel joins the Zambezi River, this resort is in one of the best spots on one of the most beautiful rivers in Africa. The Dubai-based concession owner, Irfaan Yousuf, bought the property for his wildlife-loving wife, named it after their son, Lole, and brought in the charismatic African Bush Camps founder Beks Ndlovu to build and run it. Lolebezi is more a lodge than a bushcamp, with enormous flat-roofed, glass-fronted rooms filled with green and gold interiors that wouldn’t be out of place in a contemporary boutique hotel. Outside, loungers look out over a reed-fringed riverside on which elephants munch and hippos harrumph, and two sand-floored fire pits are set up for flame-lit drinks under the stars. To take full advantage of a few hours of downtime in the afternoon, my room had a capacious netted bed, a swing chair for whiling away hot hours, an outdoor thatched sala (whose grass roof an elephant nibbled as I lay birdwatching beneath), and a little plunge pool. Unusually for a remote bush lodge, the tech is pretty sophisticated, from air conditioning and good Wi-Fi to clearly annotated light switches. Rooms from $590. —Lisa Grainger

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Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa — Dubai

Since 2004, this desert resort has been a favorite of residents and visitors for its mix of family-friendly fun, lush gardens, and Arabian architecture. Freshly reopened after an extensive renovation, Bab Al Shams is looking better—and brighter—than ever. The dark furnishings and textiles have given way to a new design aesthetic that features a lighter color palette and a more contemporary mood, all while remaining true to its Arabian roots. Hardcore fans can still find some of the original elements, albeit with a modern style and renewed energy. The much-loved swimming pools on the edge of the sands are now flanked by fresh new restaurants, including Mediterranean Zala and rooftop Anwā for Asian dishes and sunset views. A fleet of Land Rover and Defender vehicles is also on hand for desert excursions. While you’re bouncing through the dunes in the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve, you’ll likely spot herds of endangered Arabian oryxes and wandering sand gazelles. Don’t come expecting a golden sea of towering dunes—you need to head 300 kilometers inland to the Empty Quarter for that—but for a taste of desert adventure a short drive from downtown Dubai, you can’t do much better than this. Rates from $354 per night. —Nicola Chilton

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Duke’s Camp — Botswana | The Best Hotels in Africa

For three decades, Jack’s Camp has been heralded as the safari superstar, pioneering under-canvas luxury in Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans. Until now. Thirty years on, Jack’s Camp’s little sibling—Duke’s Camp—has opened in the northern Okavango Delta. Named in honor of 80-year-old “Duke” Sarefo, the official custodian of the land, the off-grid camp sits among gin-clear wiggly waterways and some of Africa’s best wildlife. In a country that opts for low-volume, high-cost tourism, you’ll feel like the entire 220,000-acre concession that Duke’s sits within is yours alone. Twelve canvas safari suites—complete with four-poster beds, feather duvets, and large Persian rugs—sit on raised wooden decks overlooking the delta’s waterways, so you can peep 400 species of bird, herds of elephants, and red lechwe. The guides here really mean business and will not let up until you’ve ticked every single “must-see” off your list, whether it’s via safari drives or canoe rides. Hot air balloon safaris, fishing, remote fly camping, and spa treatments can also be arranged. Rooms from $830. —Hannah Summers

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Wilderness Safaris Vumbura Plains — Botswana

GOLD LIST 2023  READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2018, 2020

Botswana’s wondrous Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta on the planet—and this contemporary retreat (recently rebuilt from scratch) lets guests observe the ebb and flow of life in this fascinating stretch of wilderness. The lodge’s new look and feel celebrates a sense of place, centering the local staff’s talents and the minutiae of Delta wildlife through walls of illustrations of smaller beasts and the beautiful weavings of staff members, displayed and available to buy. The 14 thatched bedrooms are connected by timber walkways—high enough to let a hippo pass under—and are spacious and contemporary. Seeing the waterways, palm islands, lagoons, and floodplains of this spiritual landscape is a once-in-a-lifetime affair, and Vumbura Plains is a magical launchpad from which to do it. Push the boat out and book a chopper ride over the surrounding floodplains to see crocodiles sunbaking on sandy white banks and hippos etching their channels under the clear water. Rooms from $1,650. —Lydia Bell

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The Best new Hotels in Africa

Beyond Grumeti Serengeti River Lodge — Tanzania

HOT LIST 2023  READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2016, 2017

This lodge was originally built in the 1990s and was a favorite with safari-goers. After it was flooded, in 2020, andBeyond took on the South African safari supremos Fox Browne to rebuild it for the 21st century. Working with the architect Jack Alexander, they created a new central living space and spa, linked by a pool and 10 contemporary bush villas, lined with canvas, wood, and banana leaves, to echo the building materials of a tribal manyatta (or local village compound). The former bush camp opened as a colorful, creative safari lodge in 2022. The rooms are beautifully designed and come with decent food, excellent cocktails, and plunge pools from which to view wildlife in the scrub opposite (Swarovski binoculars included). There are only two other camps within 60,000 hectares, so out on game drives there’s nothing about but creatures: herds of elephants, lions lying in the shade, giraffes galloping across grasslands, and birds from tiny sunbirds to pelicans fishing in the oxbow lagoon beside the lodge. Rooms from $1,135. —Lisa Grainger

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